Almost all countries accept a New Zealand licence as valid ID for driving, but there are some exceptions and you may also need an international driving permit which is only available from AA in New Zealand.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
The New Zealand licence is in English, therefore if you are travelling to an English-speaking country you do not need to get an International Driving Permit. The minimum age for an IDP is 18 years and you must have a full, valid New Zealand driving licence and you must carry that licence with you at all times when driving because an IDP is not a driver licence itself. Most countries will allow you to use an IDP for 12 months from when you arrive; the IDP itself is only valid for 12 months. Most countries will require you to get a local driver licence if you are working there or are living there, as opposed to being on holiday. You will need to contact the local licencing authority.
Countries that do not accept international driving permits
The following countries don’t accept New Zealand licences or IDPs. You will need to get a local driving licence or a visitor’s driving licence after arrival. There is a fee for this and you must provide your New Zealand licence.
- Cayman Islands
- Cook Islands
- Windward Islands
The following countries accept IDPs only for private vehicles
The following countries accept IDPs but there may be some conditions attached, such as when you can drive
- Costa Rica
Age of the driver
Some countries have a minimum driving age of 17 or 18 with restrictions for drivers who have held a licence fewer than two years. This means that, even if you have your full driver licence at 17 years and 6 months in New Zealand, if you go to most European and Scandinavian countries you must check the restrictions. They will be either:
- You can drive, but only if supervised by a person who has held a local (or locally valid) licence for a certain number of years
- You cannot drive because the minimum age to operate a car is older than you are.
Rental vehicle agencies generally will not rent to drivers under 18 and tend to be reluctant (i.e. make it expensive) to rent a vehicle if you are under 25.
Forfeiting your New Zealand licence
Note that if you choose to get a full driver licence from another country they may require you to forfeit your New Zealand licence. For example, Germany will not allow you to have dual licences. If you need to continue to drive in these countries then you may have to leave temporarily and/or get a new IDP in order to reset the time limit on driving on your New Zealand licence.
Road rules and road signs
There are two main systems for the style of road signs in the world, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (used in the Americas, Australasia and South Asia) and the European-style (used in Europe, most of Africa, the Middle East and Western Asia). You can find European sign comparisons here.
There are some unexpected rules that you will encounter in some countries.